Apple Psychological
(917)-526-0766 | 200 S Service Rd Suite 108 & 110A Roslyn Heights, NY 11577 | Boca Medical Plaza 7100 West Camino Real Suite 404 Boca Raton, FL 33433

Many parents and educators face the challenge of distinguishing between anxiety disorders and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. Both conditions can significantly impact a child’s daily functioning, but they require different approaches to treatment. Understanding the key differences between anxiety disorders and ADHD is crucial for getting the right diagnosis and support. Here, we explore the signs, symptoms, and nuances of each condition to help you determine whether it might be anxiety, ADHD, or even both.

Understanding ADHD:

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms are typically present from an early age and can impact various aspects of a child’s life, including academic performance, social interactions, and family relationships.

Common Symptoms of ADHD:

1. Inattention:

  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • Frequent careless mistakes in schoolwork.
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities.
  • Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  • Forgetful in daily activities.

2. Hyperactivity:

  • Fidgeting or tapping hands or feet.
  • Inability to stay seated in situations where it is expected.
  • Running or climbing in inappropriate situations.
  • Inability to play or engage in activities quietly.
  • Excessive talking.

3. Impulsivity:

  • Blurting out answers before questions have been completed.
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn.
  • Interrupting or intruding on others’ conversations or games.

Understanding Anxiety Disorders:

Anxiety disorders involve excessive fear or worry that is difficult to control and interferes with daily activities. Unlike ADHD, anxiety symptoms can be more situational and may not always be present. Anxiety can manifest in various forms, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders:

1. Excessive Worry:

  • Persistent and excessive worry about various aspects of life, such as school, health, or social interactions.
  • Difficulty controlling the worry.

2. Physical Symptoms:

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up.
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling or staying asleep.

3. Avoidance Behaviors:

  • Avoiding situations or activities that trigger anxiety.
  • Seeking reassurance excessively.

Key Differences and Overlaps:

While ADHD and anxiety disorders have distinct features, they can also overlap, making diagnosis challenging. For instance, both conditions can lead to difficulties with concentration and restlessness. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Focus and Attention:

  • ADHD: Inattention in ADHD is more consistent and pervasive, affecting multiple settings (e.g., home, school) regardless of the situation.
  • Anxiety: Inattention in anxiety is often situational, worsening during anxiety-provoking situations or thoughts.

2. Behavioral Symptoms:

  • ADHD: Hyperactivity and impulsivity are hallmark symptoms of ADHD, leading to fidgeting, interrupting others, and an inability to sit still.
  • Anxiety: Children with anxiety may appear restless due to nervous energy, but they typically do not exhibit the same level of impulsivity as those with ADHD.

3. Emotional Responses:

  • ADHD: Emotional responses in ADHD may be more related to frustration or impatience.
  • Anxiety: Emotional responses in anxiety are often tied to fear, worry, or apprehension about specific situations or events.

Co-Occurrence of ADHD and Anxiety:

It is also possible for a child to have both ADHD and an anxiety disorder. When this occurs, symptoms can be more complex and may require a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional. Co-occurring conditions can interact and exacerbate each other, making it even more crucial to get an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

Determining whether your child has an anxiety disorder, ADHD, or both can be challenging, but understanding the differences and seeking a professional evaluation are critical steps. At Apple Psychological, our team of experienced professionals is equipped to conduct thorough assessments and provide comprehensive treatment plans tailored to your child’s unique needs. Learn more about our comprehensive Psychological Evaluations which can provide a clear picture of your child’s symptoms and accurate diagnosis.

Contact us today for a FREE consultaiton to learn more about how we can support your child’s mental health and well-being.

In addition, Apple Psychological offers other Support for parents and teens. Find out more information and Register HERE or book a free consultation by Clicking Here